question

Don’t be afraid of it.

Bloggers, teachers, bosses, and authorities of all kinds like to highlight the things they know for sure and shy away from the unknown. Maybe I have things backwards, but I like to do the opposite. I’m more comfortable saying, “I don’t know, but I’d love to explore it further.”

Admitting that you don’t know something doesn’t make you look dumb. In fact, people will often have a greater respect for you when you eagerly admit the things you don’t know.

I was going to make a list here of a few things I don’t know, but then I realized that list would be very long. In fact, I can’t say I know anything with confidence.

Life is not something you figure out. The idea of “knowing” something is often an illusion. There is no textbook with the answers. What is true today might be totally false tomorrow. Even something as structured as science has answers that are in constant flux. Newton was absolutely, scientifically, right… until Einstein came up with a new version of right.

In fact, I would guess that the vast majority of my ideas/insights come from place of not knowing… but I don’t know that for sure.

Image Credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle

journey

Never leads to a happy ending.

If you are working (struggling) towards an outcome in a way that is not delightful, the results will disappoint every time.

The destination will always be a match for the journey.

Do the lifeless investment banking job in order to make money and the money will be just as distasteful as the work. In that sense, the destination was just as unhappy as the journey. You’re unhappy doing the work and unhappy with the results. It’s a lose-lose. But take a journey where you wake up each day and say “YES! It is so good to be alive!” and no matter what happens, the destination will be a match for how you felt along the way.

This might be counterintuitive. It might go against our protestant work ethic that says there’s no gain without pain. But it’s the truth. If you think this through, what I am saying is that you can never enjoy yourself unless you are enjoying yourself. What a revolutionary idea…

branchLeaf

Right now you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Can you feel the perfection in that statement? In times of distress, this can be an excellent mantra. Words like these can bring us feelings of deep encouragement and peacefulness because they resonate with the deeper part of ourselves

Your mind might (incorrectly) see potential problems tomorrow, or remember the trials of yesterday; but you are right here, right now. Your consciousness will always be right here, right now. In fact, that is what consciousness is – your awareness of this moment.

There is nothing random. Happenstance does not occur in our universe. This very moment is here, exactly as it should be, and because it is as it should be, it is perfect! As you read this, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Everyone else is exactly where they are supposed to be. Everything is happening exactly as it is supposed to be happening.

Doesnʼt that truth bring a rush of peace into your awareness?

This isnʼt so much an idea of fate, as if everything has been preordained and there is nothing you can do about it. Rather, it is a representation of the perfection that you cannot escape. Because everything is exactly where it is supposed to be, nothing can ever be wrong. Nothing needs to be fixed. This moment, and this moment alone, carries with it the perfection of all-that-is.

Image Credit: itchys

gandhi

Once upon a time, a mother was struggling with her daughter’s sugar habit. The little girl was constantly craving sweets and her mother had tried everything to break this habit. After no success, she finally decided to visit Gandhi to see if his great discipline might rub off on the daughter.

After waiting for hours, the mother dragged her daughter in to meet Gandhi. She said, “Mahatma, my daughter eats too much sugar and I am worried about her. Is there anything you can do to get her to stop?”

Gandhi thought for a moment and finally looked up. He solemnly said, “come back in two weeks and I will be able to help your daughter.”

The mother was pleased and, exactly two weeks later, came back to visit him. Gandhi stood up, pointed his finger at the daughter and said, “Don’t eat so much sugar!”

The mother was shocked. She expected some deep spiritual insight and this is all he said? “Mahatma, that’s it? Why couldn’t you have just said that two weeks ago when we were here?”

“Because,” Gandhi replied, “two weeks ago, I was eating too much sugar.”

stright lines

It is up to you to decide who is the most right.

Protestants believe they are, absolutely and infallibly, right about every area of religious doctrine. Mormons believe they are the ones with the answers. Still Muslims know something very different to be the truth.

Fox News thinks they have the right views on gun control, and they do. CNN has contradictory views on gun control, and they’re right also.

Everyone is always right. I don’t even mean that sarcastically. By some weird phenomena, two people can live in the same world and each be totally convinced of “truths” that conflict with each other. Except for very simple matters (who won the Super Bowl), every area is a grey area and there are infinite answers and interpretations.

Just look at Plato’s Republic for the clearest example of this. We have no good way of defining what’s true, right, or just in our world. The more you look, the more confused you get.

You, then, have ultimate power to give authority. Because everything is always right, it is up to you to decide which “right” has the most power. You, and only you, are the judge who metes out credibility.

If Christianity is right, it is only because you decided it was right. Oh, you think it is right because the Bible says so? But who says the Bible is right? Your pastor. And who says your pastor is right? Your Parents. And who says your parents are right? YOU. String it out as far as you want and it always comes back to your own individual judgement calls.

Let me save you a whole bunch of time and grief: Don’t spend your life looking for the truth, because it is all the truth. Just decide which truth makes you the happiest and go with that. (Deciding that none of the options deserve your authority is a perfectly valid decision as well).

Of course, the real message is to understand the absurdity of whatever truth you finally settle upon. By all means, run with your viewpoints, fight against the other side, go to the rallies, and have a blast. But at the end of the day, recognize that your views are only true because YOU gave them authority.

dewdrop

Try controlling the outcomes of your actions and you’ll find yourself in a spiral of struggle and despair.

But focus exclusively on the process of doing what you do, let that be enough, and the outcomes will take care of themselves.

If you go into the interview looking for the job, you are misguided. There is nothing you can do to control whether or not they hire you. Instead, your focus must be on the process of giving the best interview possible. Forget about the job. Leave the meeting fully satisfied that you did your part to the best of your ability.

This brings two much-needed benefits:

  1. You find relief from the endless rumination. It simply doesn’t matter how productive this activity was, or how much that person appreciated your comments, or how you anticipate the future will play out. Your satisfaction is back under your control and that feels really good.
  2. You’re more effective in your work. The things you choose to do will have more focus and energy then ever before. Your work shifts from good to great and then, ironically, you create much more positive outcomes.

image credit: Moyan Brenn

field

The thing is, you already have it.

If you’re reading this, there is a very high chance that you live in a world where you have incredible freedom. You have freedom over how you spend your time, over where you go, over the work you do, and over the people with whom you surround yourself.

Whatever restricts your life is purely your own creation. No one – other than yourself – can take away your choices. If you wake up unhappy with an aspect of your life, you can (and should!) say NO MORE and boldly go searching for whatever might make you happier. You have that right. You deserve to be happy.

You are young (at least, younger than you will be next year), smart, skilled, experienced, talented, and you have virtually endless opportunities ahead. At the first glimmer of unhappiness, you can drop what you’re doing and start doing something different. No questions asked. No problem.

Isn’t that wonderful?

P.S. I’m talking to you, too. You know that comment you’re going to leave, the one that explains how this doesn’t apply to you? Forget it. You, too, have this kind of freedom.

Image Credit: Jack Zalium